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The Cost of Publishing a Novel



Going Indie


Isn’t it free to post a book at, say, Amazon? Well, yes. But that’s the end of the process so let’s start at the beginning.

I’m not going to try and figure out how many reams of paper or toner ink I went through for my printer. Everyone expects that.

Let’s talk about the cost of professionally putting a book together for publication.


Editing and Proofreading


I had a head start here because I’ve been a proofreader, copy editor, editor, and production editor in-house for a number of years at different companies. That, combined with my writers’ group, where every person in it is also a professional editor, saved me from needing to hire to get the job done.

If you think you can do without it, think again. There have been too many times I’ve read typos and sentence mishmashes that made me determined to never read anything by that author again. Unless you’ve decided to write only one book, do this step. (And even then, bad reviews can make that book dead in the water after a few sales.) The cost for this work will depend on what kind of edit you need—the deeper, the costlier—but a word of warning: you get what you pay for. Think hard before accepting the lowest bid and always check the editor’s references. An example of rates can be found at the Editorial Freelancers Association at http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php.


Cover Art


I’m smart enough to know I have no graphic art skills. What’s interesting is, when I put out the word that I was looking for someone, there were people I knew who I would have loved to consider but they didn’t have the necessary computer skills. It’s not just about the art, it’s about the technical aspects. A family member who is both a graphics designer and artist offered his services and—this is important—I felt I could work with him. Cost? $500.


Formatting the Book


Then I discovered that using Word for the paperback version was a bad idea. I had no knowledge of InDesign or QuarkXPress, and I panicked. But one of my writer friends stepped in and offered to do it for me. Still, that’s something that needs to be factored in if you decide to offer the paperback as well as the e-book. I’m formatting the e-book myself since it’s something I’ve done before.




I’ve discussed this before. I decided to buy the one that I can use anywhere, not just at Amazon, and the cost was $99.




Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and many blog sites are free. I chose to pay for a website with my domain name. I can’t be exact about the cost because I upgraded to their business level halfway through the year. The cost below is their rate for that. My host is http://icdsoft.com and includes WordPress (which I use).

Some people pay for ads or trailers or pay for a publicist to get the word out. There are many different routes to travel and no one right or wrong one.

So here’s a rundown of my expenses so far:


Services Cost ($USD)
Proofreading/Editing 0
Cover Art 500
Website/Blog (per year) 120
Total $719

Will there be other expenses? Yes. I’m considering business cards and perhaps a bookmark. I might employ publicist services. I haven’t decided yet.

Only you can decide which services you can do on your own and which you need to pay for. Had I not been able to do some of the production work myself, the cost would easily have doubled—for a “free to put up on Amazon” book.

Do I regret going indie? Not at all. It’s the right choice for me. I’ve said to others, “Seventy percent profit off an e-book is great, but it’s still zero dollars if no sales are made.” Having a professional-looking book (in addition to that great story) is the other half of the coin.

On the other hand, there are pluses to having an agent or publisher do the production work. It frees you up to do more writing. Just be aware that you will still need to do the marketing.

There. That’s all I have at the moment.


*Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  • jan • December 21, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    You’re right – you can never have help with editing ! I had two editors who still missed a lot of whoopsies.

    • jan • December 21, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Speaking of whoopsies – should be: you can never have enough help. . .

      • J. M. Levinton • December 21, 2015 at 2:35 pm

        Ah! I thought that’s what you might have meant but didn’t want to assume. 🙂

    • J. M. Levinton • December 21, 2015 at 2:04 pm

      I’m not sure I understand what you mean. Can you explain further?

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